A little over a week ago, we examined Gary Sanchez’s slow start for the Yankees. Through his first eight games, he had a .080/.148/.120 line and an abysmal -22 wRC+. He had no barrels after leading the league last year in barrel percentage with 19.1%. That was on August 5.
His biggest problem was making contact, and still is. To be fair, it will probably always be the weakest part of his game. But he doesn’t need to have a +80% contact percentage to be the best offensive catcher in MLB (his career-high is 73.8% and his career number is 71.7%.)
Today, it is fair to say that Sanchez is beginning to show some signs of life at the plate.
His overall slash line is still lousy, but it has improved to .133/.224/.350 with a 56 wRC+. The Kraken already has four home runs, and three of those came in consecutive games from August 12 through August 15. On Sunday, he had a sharply hit, pulled line drive for a single.
That line drive was a positive development for Sanchez. Yes, his BABIP is very low at .148, which is probably dragging down his average together with all the strikeouts. But he’s not going to increase it by hitting too many flies and ground balls — let’s face it, he’s not particularly fast to beat too many throws to first on grounders. He needs to do better than his current 9.7 line-drive percentage, and get closer to the 20.3 mark he had in 2019 or his career register of 18.4.
He hit the ball with authority over the weekend. This one is against the Atlanta Braves on August 12:
Against the Red Sox on August 14 (an impressive 457-ft drive to left-center):
Hoy tiene que ser un día complicado para Los Medias Rojas fans y Barça fans.— Miguel Ramos (@MiguelRamos0616) August 15, 2020
Clase de galleta .
Gary Sánchez NYY pic.twitter.com/OE2XfGlmwJ
And again, vs. the Red Sox on August 15:
Gary Sanchez - New York Yankees (4) pic.twitter.com/klu4331Ih4— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) August 16, 2020
He has hits in his last four games. It may not seem like much, but it is progress. In that teeny, tiny sample size, he has three homers and a .765 slugging percentage.
Sanchez still has a league-worse 43.3 K%. However, over those last four games through Sunday, he has struck out on 27.8% of his plate appearances. Small sample size, but again, progress. In fact, that’s closer to his career mark of 25.9%.
Even with their loaded lineup and explosive offense, the Yankees need Gary Sanchez to get going. It is important to make the lineup deep for opposing pitchers and have the most possible batters that can take quality at-bats. For much of the season, Sanchez wasn’t one of those batters, but if he is at his best, he is a premier power hitter from a premium position. There aren’t many catchers in MLB with his offensive profile.
As we pointed out in our last review, the key for Sanchez will be the frequency with which he makes contact, not so much the quality of it. We know what he can do when he hits the ball: his 91.9 mph average exit velocity is right in line with his career 91.1 mph mark, as is his 48.4 hard-hit rate (43.5% over his big league tenure.)
Up until August 5, Sanchez had no barrels. Now, he has four of them, for a 12.9 barrel percentage. Although we need to see more before we can proclaim he is out of the woods, Gary Sanchez seems to be turning his season around, slowly but surely.